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Creativity Is Love.

There is nothing mysterious about creativity. There is no magic ingredient.

Creativity boils down to these few simple questions:

  • Do you love what you do, as you love a lover?
  • Are you irresistibly drawn to create what you do?
  • Are you painstakingly devoted to its improvement, however hard that may be?

Creatives create first and foremost for themselves and not for external reward or validation, for the adoration of their craft is motive enough.

It doesn’t matter what the craft is—writing, design, thinking, software development, podcasts etc.

Without love, creativity is hard to come by or contrived. Worst yet is artificial ‘creativity’ driven by fears like reputation, monetary, competition, perfectionism etc.

Fear is not love. Fear drains you of all good things and can only create unsustainable, shallow works.

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Gratitude For Suffering.

I grew up in a Buddhist environment. As such, I was exposed to the Buddhist concept of nirvana, which is to be free of dukkha, commonly translated as ‘suffering’.

As a child, I made the cessation of dukkha my goal.

I resolved that, if I am to be forced to exist in a world that I do not wish to exist in, then, at the very least, I should free myself from the suffering of my existence.

What I didn’t understand at that tender age—nor for most of my adult life—is that ‘cessation of dukkha’ cannot be accomplished via the literal application of the phrase.

  • You cannot cease to suffer.
  • You cannot escape or hide from suffering.
  • You cannot ignore or deny suffering.

Suffering is inherent to life, and absolutely essential for a well-lived life.

Suffering is a gift, one we have taught ourselves to fear. We desire to eradicate it. We fight everything we do not understand. Human nature.

Yet suffering is within. How do we fight ourselves?

Suffering is not to be overcome.

Suffering is to be:

  1. Seen,
  2. Understood, and finally,
  3. Embraced.

“How have I created my suffering?” is the question least asked by a person who suffers.

Instead, we ask, “How can I stop suffering?” And then we turn to products and services for relief—rarely for genuine resolution.

All fail.

They may succeed at numbing or distracting us. However, there is nothing, not now or ever, that can hand over the cessation of suffering in exchange for a fistful or truckload of money.

In the Anuradha Sutta, Buddha himself is claimed to have said, “Formerly, and also now, I make known just suffering and the cessation of suffering.”

He was not the first, nor will he be the last, to expound on the nature of suffering. Yet he was unable to liberate all who heard him. Why?

The cessation of suffering begins with self. No words can teach the experience needed. It’s really not that deep or complicated an answer but we do not like to hear it.

There is no shortcut. In this, our modern, shallow, impatient culture, we have no desire for self mastery. We just want relief, yesterday.

Therefore we suffer more than ever.

Instead of fighting suffering, we should learn to see suffering as a helpful beeping alarm or flashing light.

An invaluable opportunity to engage in the process of self mastery.

  • “Why am I suffering?”
  • “What do I fear?”
  • “Why am I angry?”
  • “Why do I hurt?”

The other thing we do not like to hear is this—Responsibility for our suffering lies with ourselves. It is never anybody or anything else’s fault that we suffer.

You suffer because you hold some perspective that translates your experience as something to suffer over.

What is that perspective?
What is that belief?

Think.
See.
Understand.

And in doing so, you may attain freedom from suffering, which in the most practical terms for your everyday life, is to:

  • See dukkha as the incredible gift it is,
  • Feel gratitude for its presence in your life,
  • Seize the opportunity it presents to understand and master your bedevilments and achieve freedom from them via your understanding.
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Australia Day. Invasion Day.

Australia’s national day is less than 24 hours away. Many call it Australia Day.

But for the majority of Australia’s First Nations, the indigenous peoples of this continent, 26 January is Invasion Day, Survival Day.

I find it apt that I stumbled upon the Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., on Seth Godin’s blog less than a week ago.

King wrote his letter from a solitary confinement jail cell in Birmingham in 1963. At the time, Birmingham was “the most segregated city in America”, notorious for its violence against African Americans.

More on that later…

Apparently, there are still people today who believe that “the notion of invasion day” is nothing more than “an attempt by the political Left to show that Australian society, nation and settlement is illegitimate.”

The following passages are quoted from Michael McLaren and Keith Windschuttle, from an interview conducted a mere year ago entitled ‘The myth of ‘Invasion Day’’:

McLaren: The issue of invasion—the settlement. Historically speaking. […] My belief is that it wasn’t, and couldn’t be defined as an invasion, what occurred [during] the first decade or so of white settlement, in that there was no declared war. There was no, as far as I recall, as far as I’ve read, no overarching indoctrination coming from the king, for example, saying we need to conquer. In fact, quite the opposite was the modus operandi of the British.

Windschuttle: The British declared sovereignty […] over the eastern half of the Australian continent in 1770 but that was to warn off other European powers. They didn’t invade the place. Settlement didn’t happen until 1788.

The Aborigines never resisted white society. […] They discovered that these white men had a regular supply of food and right throughout the continent and history of Australia, from 1788 until […] the 1930s, the Aborigines came in to white society.

They discovered that, instead of the arduous life of the hunter-gatherer, and most hunter-gatherers found it very difficult to maintain a food supply especially in the winter because food supplies are seasonal. Even in Sydney, one of the most fruitful parts of Australia, the Aborigines went hungry and looked emaciated and some people thought they were starving because the fish supply ran out and fish was their staple food. The fish in winter in Sydney leave the harbour and leave the shallow waters and go off and breed […] and there are no fish or are very difficult to catch.

But the white people, the Aborigines found, had a regular supply of food. […] They could trade off, give up hunting and gathering and live off white people in return for three meals a day and 52 weeks a year.

Basically that was the deal everywhere the whites went, that was the deal the Aborigines accepted. They accepted the presence of the white people because it offered them one overwhelming advantage for them.

The patronising tone of their convictions was almost too much to take.

  • The absence of declaration of war is irrelevant. This is not about legal niceties and military procedure.

    Invasion here refers to a collection of actions, taken and not taken by British colonists, military, civilian or otherwise, that constituted a identifiable starting point to the rapid degradation of First Nations population, continuity of language and culture and mental and physical health over a period of two hundred years.

    Actions that began with the the arrival of said British colonists and their appropriation of traditional homelands on the grounds that the indigenous population do not ‘own’ the lands in the British sense of the word.

    The precise terminology used to justify these actions, coined in 1835, is “Terra Nullius“. In other words, “No one’s here. The land is ours.”

  • The comments implying a lack of “regular supply of food” truly irked me.

    What of the fact that the colonists were rapidly taking over traditional lands upon which the First Nation peoples were dependent on for hunting and gathering? I suppose that doesn’t account for lack of food sources and starvation?

    And, oh, what about disease? How about mental, emotional and spiritual depression resulting from the loss of homeland leading to listlessness and a general sense of existential hopelessness? Wouldn’t those indirectly lead to “emaciation” as well?

    How would Windschuttle feel, I wonder, if he were evicted from his home and not be assured of any scrap of land to live and call home thereafter, in a world where he can be assured that the majority will not treat him as a person, much less an equal? How would his motivation levels be like?

History is not objective. However, one can easily deduce the attitudes of the original British colonists simply by observing ongoing discrimination of Australian First Nations today.

Attitudes are hereditary, passed down from generation to generation. Two hundred years is not such a long time. Look at the discrimination of Native and African Americans today. There is not much difference.

But wait, there is. At least the American Constitution recognises Native Americans and African Americans.

They are not perfect. For example, though the American Constitution “finally guaranteed African Americans the rights of freedom and full citizenship“, the US government has only restored “limited recognition of Native sovereignty and government-Native relations are perhaps best described as those of internal neo-colonialism“.

The Australian Constitution, in contrast, “mentions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples only to discriminate. Until the 1967 Referendum, Indigenous Australians were excluded even from being counted in the tally of citizens“.

I now quote sections from Martin Luther King’s letter that I feel are pertinent to the ongoing discrimination of First Nation peoples in Australia, in mental and health care, employment, education, housing, access to justice and just plain humane treatment in day-to-day situations in public.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.

There is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.

Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Many activists have sacrificed much in their dedication to nonviolent direct action, striving to bring to light the tension that undeniably exists in Australian everyday life regarding First Nations treatment, rights and discrimination.

Change begins with acknowledgement of wrongs to be redressed. Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s First Nations was a first step. There’s more to be done yet.

There is a call to change the date of Australia Day. I am not Australian, therefore the date and event hold no particular significance to me.

However, I’m pretty sure that, if your ancestors had died en masse, with a population decrease of over 87% in just over a hundred years, as a direct consequence of the arrival of a certain Group X on your homeland on a certain Date X, you would be ire-stricken if I insisted on celebrating the arrival of Group X on Date X.

Especially if I insisted on making Date X an annual, national, celebratory event, that makes no mention whatsoever of the suffering your ancestors endured, a pain with ramifications echoing down through the generations to your present day.

That is Australia Day to the First Nations of this continent.

A day that precipitated over two hundred years of unacknowledged or dismissed suffering and sorrow. Two hundred years of forced ‘civilisation’, of not being allowed to speak their own languages or perpetuate their own cultures, of having their children forcibly removed and basic rights ignored or removed. Of being denied employment because they are not white. Of being jeered at on the streets, or being spoken to as if they were universal delinquents or infants.

A mere 3% of the current population, yes, but are minorities not still human? Do they not matter? As people? Are they not human too?

The Australian Government’s own web site states, “Australia’s first inhabitants, the Aboriginal people, are believed to have migrated from some unknown point in Asia to Australia between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.”

To not merely survive, but thrive for such an impressive span of time on a continent as unforgiving as Australia, with the proliferation of such an array of cultural diversity with hundreds of groups and languages that enjoy unique relationships and continuity between them through song and story from one end of the continent to the other?

Doesn’t that deserve more than just mere recognition? Doesn’t that deserve respect?

Australia Day. Invasion Day. Survival Day.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.

— John E. E. Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, [1877].

Whatever you choose to do tomorrow, I hope you can spare a moment to consider how you can and will rise to the challenge of John E. E. Dalberg’s quote above.

As for me, the writing of this is my humble contribution to the cause.

I acknowledge the Kuku Yalanji people as the Tradtional Owners of the country on which I live and I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

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Destroy The Past. Reprised.

My post Destroy Your Past was featured on Mystic Medusa’s blog two weeks ago and precipitated a lively discussion on the various ways of and motivations for destroying one’s past.

Mystic Medusa’s crowd is a very forward-thinking bunch, who mostly espouse Mystic’s famous motto, “Stay Stuck And You Are Fuqed”.

The discussion enabled me to think about and clarify what I meant in my original post.

Let’s start by addressing my title faux pas.

Why ‘destroy’? It’s so negative.

My honest mistake. ‘Destroy’ is a very harsh word indeed, being defined as:

end the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it

  • ruin emotionally or spiritually
  • defeat utterly
  • kill by humane means

Upon looking it up, I realised it wasn’t even accurate.

I equated the acts of ‘discarding’ and ‘deleting’ with ‘destroy’, which I equated with ‘getting rid of’. Crude. Sloppy.

Drop Your Past’ is my wording and title of choice now. My apologies.

Even so, destroying my past is impractical!

Obviously, Carlos Castaneda’s quote is a metaphor. Few of us are able to “create a fog” around us and our lives in this modern age. What would become of our professional credibility?

Here is the practical process for dropping one’s past:

  • Let go of the irrelevant, stale and stagnant. This may be physical possessions, digital collections, mental philosophies, emotional attachments, spiritual ideologies and social relationships.
  • Cease repeating narratives related to or derived from any of the above, in written or spoken form.
  • Focus instead on a narrative of your here and now.

Isn’t that rewriting history for the ego? Keeping what’s nice and rejecting what’s not?

Relevant is not equivalent with nice. Dropping the past is not about avoiding the unpleasant and painting only an ego-appeasing rosy picture.

It is about authenticity, born of a dedication to your here and now, which may or may not be pretty.

Why relevance? Because we all change and what was once relevant and productive for us may not be today. However, we irrationally hold onto many things and this clutter, material and immaterial, stunts our growth.

Consider irrelevance also to be the the discarded rind and pips of a fruit completely consumed. In this case, relevance is about extracting every last productive lesson you can from your past and then discarding the rest.

The narrative from such an approach is neither stale nor stagnant. In fact, it will prove beneficial to not only yourself, but others as well, in being practical and empowering.

Is it always necessary?

Though the large majority of the community favoured the concept of dropping one’s past, a thoughtful minority pointed out that:

  • It isn’t always necessary, and that in fact,
  • An overzealous attitude may result in unnecessary regret.

I actually agree with both points. I was once a victim of my own overzealousness. I deleted posts from previous iterations of my blog instead of archiving them, as I do today. I lost a lot of interesting and useful material unnecessarily.

A carefully thought out and managed archival system is key. Otherwise, you will simply be a hoarder.

What’s the difference between archiving and hoarding?

Archival is built on a thoughtful process of:

  • Careful evaluation of material for inclusion,
  • Regular reviewing for relevance, and
  • Sensible, not obsessive, attention to one’s cataloguing methodology.

Archives are healthy and hoards unhealthy because:

  • Archives are functional and utilized, whereas hoards rot under literal and figurative cobwebs.
  • Archives contribute to one’s creativity, whereas hoards only create physical and psychological chaos.
  • Archivists utilise a balance of logic and intuition, whereas hoarders are slave to irrationality masquerading as practicality.

I’m trying but I can’t!

Sometimes there may be themes, that you’re trying desperately to release, that simply refuse to go. It’s like you’re stuck with it.

It may not be time yet. You do not understand it yet. You have not mastered the significance or the lesson yet.

Dropping your past is not about escaping suffering or difficulty. It is about releasing the irrelevant. Obstacles are unpleasant but relevant to growth.

Work on understanding the issue or obstacle. When you have mastered its presence in your life, you will find dropping it easy.

Why is it so hard? I can’t seem to let go.

You currently identify strongly with your past self or selves. It feels like committing suicide.

Though your past selves are no longer embodied in flesh and blood, you continue to give them life through your constant attention and narration of them.

Your need for your stories is stronger than your need for freedom. Your stories may be convenient i.e. getting attention, sympathy etc. They may justify victimhood mentality or explain a, “Why I can’t…” mentality.

Examine with brutal honesty why your narratives are important to you and you will understand why you can’t let them go.

But I share these stories with my family and friends too!

If you find yourself constantly sharing victimhood or lack of progress stories with friends for commiseration bonding, you may need to drop those friends too.

Fear of rejection is another reason why many find it difficult to drop their past. It is a fear you must face if you want to grow.

If you can’t drop these relationships, then stop participating in the same old narratives. Refuse to comment. Keep quiet. Change the subject. Leave. Or explain your new perspective. If they ridicule you, it’s time to reconsider the relevance of these relationships.

And finally…

Letting dreams go.

R(aqua/tauri) wrote, “The hardest and strangest part is also letting dreams go. I’m a dreamer and my dreams became my identity. It wasn’t healthy.”

I dreamt of being an internet entrepreneur for seven years. I couldn’t see that it wasn’t for me. In the end, I recognised the reality but it hurt to let it go. I had identified with it. It was like committing suicide.

Not all dreams are aligned with our authentic selves and we may have invested years of time, effort and money, blood, sweat and tears into them. Yet these are most important to release for us to progress to the next chapter of our lives.

There will be grieving, a period of emptiness, loss of identity and bewilderment. This is natural.

As Julia Cameron wrote:

Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth.

— The Artist’s Way

I hope this clarifies your understanding what I wrote in my original post Destroy Your Past.

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Suicide: No Longer An Option.

I have brushed the gates of Death but once in my life.

It was 2004 and my platelet count had plummeted to double-digit figures as a result of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

There may have been a handful of other incidents I can’t verify.

A mysterious attack of pneumonia as a four-year-old that ended with a doctor pushing a plastic tube up my nose and down my windpipe to drain my lungs of fluid.

A month-long battle against leptospirosis two years ago during which I ran temperatures of 42°C for a nearly a week.

Death likes to seek me via illness, it appears.

Yet even when I was well, Death was never far away, for It was never far from my thoughts.

Death was always my seductive, elusive panacea, my potential escape pod from what I felt was a horror of existence in human form.

Just as depression was always with me, so was suicide ideation. The two go hand-in-hand.

Death was always an option. I simply had to choose.

And I very nearly did a couple of times.

Yet that option is now closed to me.

I have chosen.

I choose to live.

Is it because life has gotten better that I have changed my mind, or rather, made up my mind?

Yes and no.

My life has changed drastically in many ways, yet it has not and probably cannot change in many other ways as well.

I have achieved a peace within myself I never thought I could. However, I cannot change my neurological hardwiring, and I cannot change the prevalent social and cultural rejection of neurological divergence.

Life is not any easier.

Sometimes choices are made not because things are easier, better or nicer.
Sometimes choices are made because you have to just make up your own damned mind to face whatever comes.

Lingering in a twilight of life while still alive, waiting and hoping to die, is not a way to live. It is not even a way to die. It is limbo, an escape that fails to be even that.

Such a mentality overshadows every thought, every choice and every action one takes and I came to the realisation that I never committed to life because I wanted out so badly all the time for most of my life.

I have never truly lived, in that case. My life has been merely another form of undeath. A truly sobering thought.

I cannot allow myself to continue this way.

Still, it was with tears that I bid those stern gates farewell.

They have been my constant companion and temptation my entire life. I’d been loitering in their shadow so long, unable to cross, yet cowardly refusing to leave.

Hedging my bets. Always keeping my escape pod option handy.

No longer an option. I turn the engines off, close the hatch and toss the keys.

I turn from those forbidding ebony gates and walk back into the technicolor chaotic world of life.

Come what may, I have chosen.

I choose to live.

And I’ll stand by that till Death comes to claim me of its own accord.

Perhaps those gates will not appear so stern on my final return.

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Depression: Choose Otherwise.

Depression can be a habit. Entrenched by years of repeating the same pattern of reaction triggered by certain events or people in your life.

Depression doesn’t have to be your default response to undesired experiences. Depression is only one possible response.

The question is, “Do you believe you have the capability and the power to choose and experience a different response?”

Becoming aware of your power to choose otherwise may be your first step to slowly developing a strategy for managing or preventing severe depressive episodes.

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Mysticism Is To Me… A Filter.

Mysticism is to me, quite a number of things. Therefore, I shall tackle the subject over a number of posts. This is the third. Here is the rest of the series:

Mysticism is to me… a filter. A lens. A way I choose to see the world, its events and all my experiences in it.

Everyone is selective about what they allow into their sphere of consciousness. Everyone rejects some themes, subjects, people, events and objects as irrelevant, while accepting others.

We all have “spam” filters.

Filters work by sorting incoming data into “relevant” and “irrelevant”, as determined by a set of criteria or rules. Just like Gmail’s wonderful filters.

Mysticism is my filter, and my principles are the criteria by which I judge the relevance or irrelevance, importance or unimportance, benefit or harm in incoming data from the world.

This data can be music, news, videos, people, locations, events, books, articles, podcasts, conversations, hashtag conversations and other social media, pictures, movies, activities etc. Anything and everything that enters my sphere of consciousness.

Anything that can enter my mind and leave its indelible color or stain.

For example:

One of my principles states that I choose to focus on acts of affirmation instead of acts of violence.

This rule does not see me completely ignoring the news. However, it does ensure that I avoid watching or hearing anything that is based on, glorifies or condones violence and gore.

That precludes me from most media today, including a lot of movies and music, but I’m not complaining. My mind is clearer and freer of violent sounds and imagery and I am much happier this way.

Another principle states that I respect myself first and foremost on all levels, for example and especially my time, energy and attention.

This is yet another principle that delimits not only the type but the amount of media I consume every day. Anything that does not directly or indirectly contribute to my creativity, i.e., cute kittens and random YouTube videos, is either completely excluded, or only allowed in extremely small and brief amounts.

We all have a collection of “rules”, mostly unconsciously accrued during the course of our life, that comprise our filter.

The question is, “Does your filter assist you in creating constructive experiences that you desire, enjoy as well as enrich your life?

Mysticism as my filter helps me to maintain a daily state that I desire, which I define as having:

  • Clarity,
  • Contentment,
  • Peace,
  • Joy, and
  • Gratitude.

To name but a few.

Of course, these are characteristics that differ in their definition and experience in every person. What is peace to me may not be understood by another. What brings joy to me may not work for another.

Awareness is key to creating and maintaining a filter that works for you, and not against you.

This is how mysticism is to me, a filter, assisting me in creating experiences that I desire in my everyday life.

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Focus Creates Change.

The more we reward the behaviours we admire, the less likely the selfish will be able to take advantage of our labelling errors.

— Seth Godin, Babies and bathwater

You can’t change people, and you definitely can’t change organisations, religions, governments etc.

So how do we create change in the world?

By focusing on what you desire.
By giving power to what you desire.

Attention creates. This is only woo-woo when you chant it like a mantra and expect change to fall from the sky as a result.

Direct your resources, your attention, energy, time and money, to the people and organisations who do the work, and not just talk, to help create the reality you desire.

The accountability is yours.

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Mysticism Is to Me… A Way Of Life.

Mysticism is to me, quite a number of things. Therefore, I shall tackle the subject over a number of posts. This is the second. Here is the rest of the series:

Mysticism is to me… a way of life. A way to breathe. A way to see.

My way of life. The way I exist and function, all in one. It is very difficult to dissociate my self from mysticism in order to explain it for it is integral to my way of being, on every level.

Yes, it is a collection of principles. But these are no strict religious edicts, handed down from generation to generation in tomes reprinted, to be unthinkingly adhered to with a grim face and fearful heart.

Edicts requiring unquestioning obedience is not a way of life. It is a way of slavery. It is a prison cell, designed by humans, for humans, for the express purpose of control.

I harvested my principles from the trail of life as I walked along {sometimes skipping, sometimes tripping} like flowers from the wayside or pebbles from a beach.

Each principle holds meaning dear to me, and is more than just words I recite dully or habits I repeat blindly. Each principle is founded upon years of experience, lessons etched indelibly into my mind, heart and spirit by joys and pains alike.

Mysticism is to me a way of life because it is not static, like scriptures on a scroll. My principles are not static because life is not static.

Each principle is alive, ever-changing, for there always comes the day when I realise that my understanding has changed, deepened and clarified yet again. My relationship with each principle changes and renews, over and over again, like the seasons renew the earth.

There are no absolutes of right or wrong. There is no concept of failure, judgement or punishment. There is only choice and experience. You live, you experience, you choose and you live and experience again. And the cycle goes on.

As such, I adhere to no specific tradition, nor do I disciple to any specific teacher. I do not need to.

Life is my master, my only teacher and guru.
Life, the most harsh and changeable, and yet also the most nurturing and impartial.

Perhaps this is why mystics have been accused throughout the ages of being amoral, even immoral. We obey no fixed spiritual rules or laws, not even our own, for there is nothing too sacred to be questioned, challenged and overturned in the light of new experience.

And finally, mysticism is to me a way of life because, well, it is a way. I do not claim that my way is the best way, or the only way. It is only one way, out of many.

It is the path that I choose. My lens, my filter. We all have one. Pick your poison. I love mine.

Mysticism… My way of life. Can’t imagine living any other way.

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Private vs. Public Thoughts.

A private journal is different from published material. They are very different tools.

A journal allows you to dump, to vent inevitable moments of irrationality, to toss impossible ideas, stir them about, to formulate questions you can’t ask yet, to be silly, rage, insecure, unstable. Anything goes.

There is no shame in a journal. It represents your tender, growing self, incubating as a seed in the safety of secrecy.

Published material is where you throw some of that into the big, wide world to test your perspectives and perception of it.

It may or may not be mature. Might not even make sense yet.

But the reflections that come back to you will always prove illuminating and enlightening.

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Mysticism Is to Me… A Word.

The function of the contemplative or mystic is by its nature esoteric—for few have had the experience necessary—but “to shed light on this dimension beyond self” takes place through writing and speaking, no doubt to a limited audience.

Arthur Versluis, Mysticism and the Study of Esotericism

Mysticism is to me, quite a number of things. Therefore, I shall tackle the subject over a number of posts. This is the first. Here is the rest of the series:

Mysticism is to me… a word. A placeholder. A label.

I could have chosen “spirituality”, or “personal development”, or even “philosophy”. However, none of them are precise enough to be the overarching theme or descriptor for my needs.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Typically, mystics see their mystical experience as part of a larger undertaking aimed at human transformation and not as the terminus of their efforts.

Thus, mysticism would best be thought of as a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different traditions.

Mysticism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Mysticism therefore, is to me the most precise symbol and concept I can choose to represent the sum total of principles that I live by.

Given a choice, however, I would not have given my principles any name at all.

In day-to-day living, I do not need a name, nor a catalogue of discrete tenets elucidating my principles in word, to know how to live by them.

You do not need a name to know a person.
You do not need scripture to know how to live.

My principles are organic. I am they, and they are I. They evolve as I evolve, as my understanding deepens and clarifies over time.

My principles are alive. I learn them from living, by living.

I read very little on my chosen subject. I choose not to. I do not have to. With life itself as my teacher and guide, I simply need to listen and to obey.

Words are not important. Words are not necessary.

Yet paradoxically, I have been driven by an inexplicable compulsion to write about this way of life for many years.

And writing requires me to transmute the intangible into tangible form. Transforming inexpressible experience, into words, labels, definitions and prose.

How ironic. How apt.

So, I had to choose a name.

“What will I call this thing? What should I call it?” I was confounded by issues of originality and accuracy, until I realised.

Ego. All ego.
Let it go.

So I sat in the forest and I heard it. Clearly, like a bell.

“Mysticism.”

“Okay,” I said. “I shall call it that.”

Mysticism.

It wasn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. I’ve known the term for years. I’ve written about it before. It wasn’t anything new.

But you see, sometimes, we need to be reminded of the things we know.
Sometimes, we need reassurance of the choices we make, to dispel those last ghosts of doubt.
And just sometimes, we need that gentle shove out the door, to commit ourselves to the new and unknown reality we are creating.

So here it is. Here we are.

Mysticism. A word for my way of life.

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You Can’t Change Them.

It is impossible to change others. That is fact. However, most people refuse to believe this. They are lost in the illusion of power-over-another. You cannot choose for another, and choice is required for change.

If you are unhappy in a situation that doesn’t change, then the person responsible for your discomfort is you. Everyone else is just doing their own thing, lost in their own delusions.

Are you going to stay lost in yours too?

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Destroy The Past.

{Update: I’ve written a sequel to this post at Destroy The Past. Reprised. The sequel addresses nine questions that arose in my mind about this original post, two weeks after it was featured on another blog.}

Since May 2012, this blog has undergone five distinct iterations, with this iteration being the fifth, starting in September of this year.

I have taken care to remove all my older material from the internet, where possible. Only posts from this current iteration should be available, unless someone’s copied my older material and republished it elsewhere, which is fine by me too.

There is a reason I’ve done this and it is not out of shame.

It is the unfortunate tendency of human beings to assume that a person is still the same as they were one, two, three or even five years ago. It is a very silly and unrealistic tendency, perhaps reflecting the fact that most humans do not engage in self-transformative practices. They remain constant, year after year, and consider it good.

I, however, do not have that luxury.

I change frequently. Very, very frequently. I see no need to stay in any one form or state.

As a result, I outgrow material that I publish very frequently.

I agreed with Richard Koci Hernandez when he said this just earlier this month {emphasis mine}:

I’ve always loved the idea, as Apple refers to it, of a photo stream. What a great concept. And like a stream, things enter your line of sight, you enjoy them for a brief moment in time and eventually they flow past –– in essence never to be seen again.

In reference to my own work, my ‘photo stream’ has recently seemed less like a stream and more like a dammed-up river. I know this all sounds very heady, but I’ve been thinking that the Internet doesn’t respect time in the way that I think it should. Especially in relation to photographs.

[…] Because of the seemingly permanent nature of an online photo gallery, I didn’t want everything I’ve ever done always on display. Some of the work that I’ve posted isn’t as mature as I’d like it to be, and it deserves to be forgotten.

Deleting these images gives me a sense of freedom, of potentially shedding an old skin and developing a new one. It’s very liberating.

Why one of Instagram’s most popular photographers is deleting all his photos

As a writer, writing is more than just my medium for self-expression.

Writing is my medium for self-discovery, self-analysis and self-understanding. Writing is my tool, my mirror, my voice.

I write to know. I write for the moment. The now.

Here I am.

Personal history is useless. Pointless. Our stories about ourselves keep changing depending on where we are in our lives. Our perspectives keep changing and therefore, will keep distorting our perceptions about past and present in ever changing ways.

Our stories aren’t reliable, even to ourselves, much less to others.

However, story is how humans connect. Especially stories about our past. Where we come from. Who we were. What we did.

What does that say about what we want to believe? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good story no less than you. {though I am getting increasingly bored with the “motivational” and “inspirational” sort. yawn.}

We believe we can know a person in the now by getting to know their past. What an erroneous belief.

I have people in Singapore who still believe they know who I am, simply because they knew me in the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. Heck, I have people in Australia who believe they know me just because they knew me from earlier this year!

I am no longer that person. I am no longer that person.

In fact, some of my earlier posts in this iteration of my blog no longer resonate with me. They are outdated, stale and no longer reflect who I am today. And those words are less than three months old.

It is because the predominant attitude of people is to believe and assume:

  • That people don’t change, that they stay the same for ever and ever, and
  • That words written one month, one year, one decade ago are always accurate reflections of who a person is today, when in reality those words reflect only the past.

That it is hard to have any meaningful dialog in the now, about the now. About anything fresh, new and changing.

I am no longer there. I am no longer there.

I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little.

If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts.

It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do. Not even I. How can I know who I am, when I am all this?

— Don Juan in Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda

The destruction of one’s past isn’t an option if one wants to create any meaningful work in this world. It is a necessity. It is an imperative, if you want to be alive, and not just a mindless zombie-puppet, being pulled this way and that by the erroneous thoughts, words and actions of people who so very much want to believe that they know who you are. When they haven’t the foggiest.

For if even I at times struggle to answer, “Who am I today? What am I today? Where am I heading to next?” What hope does any one else have?

{Hop over to the sequel Destroy The Past. Reprised.}

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Balance Openness with Boundaries.

I used to be very open on my blog, about everything within me, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Raw openness was my tool for healing.

I was hurt, lost and confused. I was in search of identity, meaning and purpose. I needed to blow boundaries apart to pick out “What is me” from “What is not me”.

However, now that I have found me at last {hello me!} I no longer need this process. I have moved on to the next stage of growth, expression and creativity.

Openness can be incredible power because it requires courage.

However, openness for the sake and point of being open is an unnecessary drain of personal power that often backfires. Instead of garnering respect and power, you will lose them.

Openness born of a need to be “something” or to be like “someone” will fail.
Openness used as a device to reap quick and massive attention or approval will fail.

Instead of being an act of power, openness in these cases degenerates to being an awkward exposé that is embarrassing to witness.

That is not to say that you have to be 100% private. {though you can if you want to. it is a perfectly legitimate choice.}

Or that you have to craft an artificial mask and put it on in public. That would be no less a farcical act.

The truth is everyone has a mask of sorts for their public persona. Or two. It is just a fact of life. The more pertinent question is, “How divergent is your public persona and identity from your real inner persona and identity?”

It’s all about understanding how openness can and must be balanced with boundaries in your life.

Authenticity and transparency are highly valued today. Some personal bloggers leverage that very skilfully and admirably in their writing.

Eden Riley is one such example whom I greatly admire.

Eden treads the boundary between personal and public very delicately and openly. Reading her writing, one might be tempted to argue that she has no boundaries! She appears to put everything out there for open scrutiny!

But she doesn’t.

onwrongplanet: I want your issues.
edenland: @onwrongplanet You sure? I gotta lotta issues!
onwrongplanet: Huh! I’m sure I could beat ur’s by a least a truck load more.
edenland: @onwrongplanet Mental health isn’t a competition dude. I haven’t written about half the shit I’ve been through

Edenland on Instagram

I didn’t need her comment to know that. Eden is a strong individual and strength such as hers can only be born from having a core that is intensely private and sacred to herself, and her nearest and dearest.

Healthy and powerful individuals define a clear boundary between their inner private world and their outer public presentation. It is not always easy and clear cut.

But it turns out, as I have found in other ways and in other places, that the separation between personal and public is not so neat.

— Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22

Openness is a skill, like everything else, that needs to be mastered. It needs to be balanced with boundaries to be meaningful, healthy and powerful.

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